Welcome to the age of constant re-invention. An era that our educational systems likely have not prepared for us. In fact, quite the opposite, with a set of expectations, beliefs and skills that may lead to a perpetual state of high anxiety.
I came across a recent report by EU and Latin America telecom powerhouse Telefonica that explores “the re-invention era.” The 2013 trends report predicts “a new context where people will re-invent and re-think every aspect of society.” The research is a great read, particularly the 6 typologies developed by the Global Trends team. I reached out to the face and voice of the report, Ariane van de Ven, Global Trends Expert, Telefonica PDI. We had an expansive conversation, highlights of which are below. Along with a link to get the pdf of the report. And a YouTube video of Ariane summing up the six profiles.
A Conversation with Ariane van de Ven, Global Trends Expert with Telefonica Digital
The Opportunity to Reinvent
“I work for Telefonica and we are a big tech company. I work with one of our biggest innovation labs. I am surrounded by technologists, scientists, researchers. What’s amazing about this environment is you realize the opportunities for technology are limitless. As humans, we have this opportunity to redirect what technology could be doing for ourselves. I have a very optimistic vision of what technology can do for us. I think technology is doing a lot more good than bad and so I am an advocate for technology.
“It is not so much about inventing new things anymore. I remember a time where having knowledge on its own was a skill. Nobody really cares about where the idea comes from, it matters what you actually do with it.
“With technology, we have this really big opportunity to reinvent many aspects of society. But then you need to have the motivation. Why would you want to reinvent things? Most people are realizing that the way that things have been working is not working any more. For some people, it’s because it’s not environmentally friendly, for some people it’s because there is a lot of unfairness in the world. What I want to say about the reinvention era is that the tools are in our hands and it’s up to us to decide what to do with them.
“For my company, we have a duty to enable people’s ability to reinvent themselves and the future they want for themselves.”
Why does your company feel it has that duty?
“Since the iPhone, technology is really embedded into everybody’s lives. We have to shift the way we think of technology. It’s not just about network efficiency. It is about adding services that can help improve the lives of our customers. We are in Europe and also in Latin America, and very often if you go to Brazil or Colombia, mobile is often the only connectivity that people have access to. We are then in this privileged position to be the only communications channel that people use. So we need to help people to better their lives.”
How did you come up with the six categories of reinvention?
“I go through a lot of content, academic and business, but also, I am very connected with pop culture. I consume an incredible amount of media. I travel a lot in my job. It’s really about being close to people. Building empathy for different types of people is very important. I don’t work for a company that has a very narrow target. Rich people, poor people, old people, young people. It’s really everyone.
“I try to understand the emerging behaviors that start to happen. I make notes throughout the year and a couple of times a year I revisit my observations and start digging. Trying to see if there’s more to it to it than meets the eyes. Is it part of a bigger movement? What are the reasons behind those emerging behaviors? A big part of my job is to try to uncover the motivation, the drivers. I always work with emotional drivers. As human beings, I think we are driven by emotions. Going back to what is the emotional value that I am trying to bring to my project is a very good way of refining what the proposition is about. Mapping the emotional dimensions is part of my methodology.
“Then I do trends along those emotional dimensions. To make them more actionable, I create typologies related to these trends. So when you read the reports, you find that you are a little bit of an explorer, but also a specialist, a little bit of a utopian. It is meant to be like that.
“Segmentation is very useful but it should not be an end in itself. Mindsets to me are a lot more powerful.
“It is also not dependent on generations. I can talk about every trend and make it relevant for every age group. The personal odyssey is not just for young people. You actually see more and more retired people taking time to explore to see what the world has to offer, in this later phase of their lives.”
Are we in an age where, in order to prosper, one has to count on being in an almost constant process of reinvention?
“I think, yes. We are going to live a lot older and stay professionally active until we are quite a lot older. If you view your life in phases instead of a linear journey, it is going to be a lot easier for people.
“Cutting some slack for yourself, like when you are not succeeding at something and a phase of your life is fading, to accept that that is part of the process will help just people, will help our wellbeing.
“Children’s tales are becoming obsolete. We need to create new tales for children so they don’t put unrealistic pressure and goals on themselves for what their life should be like.”
“To be able to reinvent yourself, you need to have a point of view about what you want to become. And to have that you need confidence, in you, in the environment you are or in the support system you have that this reinvention can happen and have a positive effect in you. And that is a very personal thing. How do you find confidence?
“We can go back to the educational piece, which is a part of it.
“In terms of tools, what we are as people, we relate to other families of ideas, I think having beliefs, being an advocate for something is very important, even if you change your mind. To have beliefs that you are passionate about is very important. How do you do that? You have to be curious. I feel very sorry for people who are not curious. It’s not something you can instigate, it’s something you have in you.
“I think what is really great now, no matter what you are into, you have access to communities of people that are interested in similar things, you are exposed to way more points of view. You can see how threads of content happen. You are interested in something, you read a post, you comment, your interests broaden and become richer and deeper.”
Isn’t all this bewildering for some people? Doesn’t this require a whole new set of tools?
“For non-digital natives, yes. If you look at countries like North Korea and Saudi Arabia, they have a massive problem with digital. For us, we learn how to cope with this mountain of information. For digital natives, they have been brought up with this tsunami of information as you say. They are a very tough audience when I present. When I talk, they are on their computer, and they check everything I say.
“Knowledge is not static, it’s dynamic. It’s not about the knowledge that you have been taught, it’s the knowledge you are creating. People want to create the future, they want to create a new truth, and a new knowledge.”
The Six Typologies (Reposted in Full From the Global Trends report)
Explorers are the risk learners – they will adopt technologies that allow them to access experiences as a means to explore themselves and the world around them. They will be active contributors to the Re-invention Era, applying their wisdom to discover new possibilities.
Specialists will help reshape organisations and identify new opportunities, push the boundaries of knowledge and innovation in their fields. Getting them into the right places will be key to effect change. Organisations that call themselves ‘forward-thinking’ will need to hire more niche specialists and look beyond the classic CV/résumé.
Modern Utopians are motivated by kind-heartedness and will share their knowledge to create tangible change. Digital technology will be the core enabler for creating sustainable utopias, as it will create transparent and collaborative ways for people and organisations to improve society as whole, ultimately helping to create kinder systems and communities.
Solvers are everyday people, hackers, tinkers, artists, activists…anyone who is involved in trying to approach issues and fix problems in a different way. They’re often part of the Intelligent Disobedience trend (see below), which will lead people to turn themselves into individuals who are looking for alternative solutions in order to mend a desperately broken system.
Makers will embrace hyper-personalisation and instant prototyping. From 3D printing to small scale fabrication laboratories, they will reinvent technologies so that it feels more tangible and better for people, everywhere.
Perceivers will embrace technology to improve their perception of everything from themselves to the environment to each other. They will aspire to experience an Enriched Reality whereby human and machine interaction is more empathic and frictionless.
For the full report, visit: